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Published on January 4th, 2016 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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USARCENT: From ‘The Dash’ to the Da’ish

By Sgt. 1st Class Luke Graziani, USARCENT Public Affairs

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. – U.S. Army Central, ‘Patton’s Own,’ Third Army, has a long and distinguished history in and out of battles and conflicts all over the world. Headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., with a forward element at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, it is the Army service component command for U.S. Central Command.

USARCENT, a forward positioned land power presence, shapes the CENTCOM area of responsibility in order to support operations against extremists, assure access, build partner capacity, develop relationships, and deter adversaries while providing a mission command capability that can set the theater and execute unified land operations in support of Commander requirements. The vast AOR, spanning some 20 different countries in Africa, Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula, is arguably the largest and most critical to current and future military operations.

“In accordance with the Unified Command Plan, [the] AOR extends from Egypt in the west to Pakistan in the east, and from Yemen in the south to the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan in the north,” said Col. Terry Cook, USARCENT assistant chief of staff G3. “It includes key countries that are often in the news –Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and Afghanistan.”

What is currently known as USARCENT began with the designation as The Third United States Army, which it held for many years. Throughout its history the organization was tasked with several different types of missions, became deactivated and then reactivated more than once, fought long battles in times of war, served as an occupying force, and at one time or another acted primarily as a training force.

The 1918 winter activation order during World War I moved Third Army to Central Germany as an occupation force. It conducted operations and contingency training until being disbanded in the summer of 1919.

Prior to World War II, Third Army was activated once again in 1932 and remained largely a “paper formation,” which meant that primary duties were to hold periodic and less than adequate training exercises. Nevertheless, it was after this brief respite that Third Army would be commanded by Lt. Gen. George S. Patton and claim the designation of ‘Patton’s Own’ and turn the tides of war by taking on the offensive and dashing across France. History was made, blood was shed, and ‘Patton’s Own’ helped make The Battle of the Bulge an allied victory.

Third Army again was designated as an occupational force and took on the challenge of starting to rebuild postwar Germany until being recalled back to the U.S. in 1947. The organization’s focus returned to acting as a command and training force for units within the U.S. until 1974 when its books were closed, yet again, only temporarily.

Near the end of 1982, the Third U.S. Army returned to active status with a new headquarters based at Fort McPherson, Georgia. It was at this stage of the organization’s evolution that most closely resembles its current state. The mission was to serve as the Army component in a unified command, the CENTCOM, which it still does presently.

Many operations over the years have firmly cemented Third Army’s presence in the AOR. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the organization planned, supported and controlled ground operations that defeated the Taliban government and later toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. Now, formally designated as USARCENT, the organization maintains flexibility to change and adapt to any threats as they arise.

“Three times, since 2000, the Nation has called upon CENTCOM to establish a joint force for operations in its area of responsibility,” said Cook. “Each of these three times, CENTCOM has called upon (USARCENT) to lead the effort – under Lt. Gen. P.T. Mikoloshek, at the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001, under Lt. Gen. David McKiernan at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait and Iraq in 2003, and most recently under Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, as the CJTF – Operation Inherent Resolve.

“No other Army service component command has led a joint force in the last decade plus,” Cook explained. “We are the land force professionals in the most volatile region of the world. While the attacks in France actually occurred in the European Theater of Operations, in fact those responsible emanated from the Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq.”

USARCENT is currently operating in an extremely volatile area. With an ever growing threat of radical militant opposition, all over the AOR, it’s a heavy burden on the organization to maintain healthy and active relationships with partner nations and allied forces. Cook affirms that the intent is not to step on their toes and take the lead, but ‘build the capacity in their land forces in order to ensure they are capable of securing their own territories and assisting in regional defense.’

Military forces of the U.S. are no strangers to taking a fight to the enemy or standing strong against any threat foreign or domestic. Battles are won with strength and the will to fight, but the war is often won with not only those attributes but also the ability to build partnerships and develop strong friendships with allies.

“We are affecting positive change through our partnerships, including some very key allies: Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar,” said Cook. “It’s key that these countries step up their game in terms of security, as they face the threats from the Islamic State and Iran.

“We are also teaming with our sister services on some key initiatives that have been ongoing for several years – most especially in building a fires capability and an air/missile defense in the region. Air Forces Central Command, which is also based here at Shaw, is a key partner in both efforts. The 4th Battlefield Coordination Detachment, one of our enabling commands, lives and works with AFCENT in the Combined Air and Space Operations Center. And the 32nd Air Missile Defense Command is co-located with AFCENT in Qatar.”

USARCENT’s mission is far from complete. Along with continuing operations around the globe, recurring training exercises in and around the AOR, and multiple locations with various types of responsibilities and missions, the organization is also adapting to a shrinking pool of manpower. The reduction of forces across the entire military infrastructure plays a big part in how the future of USARCENT will develop.

“I think we are at a crossroads. The political environment is trying to account for the fact that, while it wants less forward deployed forces, less Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines in harm’s way,” said Cook. “The reality is that we are seeing threats to U.S. interests abroad grow, and we are hearing from our partners that they rely on us for stability and security.”

Although tough, it will not stop USARCENT’s mission. Throughout the years ‘Patton’s Own’ has faced many different types of obstacles and overcame them. The organization must meet these head on and learn to adapt to an ever evolving battlefield, whether literally or figuratively.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Col. Charles Krumwiede, USARCENT deputy operations officer. “The Army’s drawing down, but Da’ish didn’t get the memo. We can’t let personnel reductions be an excuse for not getting the work done. If you look at the history of the Army – probably back in Patton’s day as well – these are the same challenges the Army always had.”

The corridors of Patton Hall will, over time, become quieter as the days go by. The work that is being done in the offices and meeting rooms within these walls will not – cannot – be affected by the dwindling of forces. The decisions that are made and the ideas that are created affect what’s happening in the AOR.

“It’s tangible. It’s not some contingency, or a what if, or synchronizing a staff action for something that could happen.” Krumwiede said. “You’re actually involved in real-world activities. You realize that what you do will have an impact and it’s important; there [are] people counting on you.”

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